Three Climates: A Trip to Hearst Castle and Paso Robles

After, read about my second journey to Hearst Castle.

The big house, “Casa Grande,” at Hearst Castle.

My friends on the East Coast will be happy to hear that I experienced some snow and hail this weekend on the central coast of California. It was sort of ridiculous – I had hail/snow, rain and bright sunshine (sunroof open, sun on my face) – all in the span of a few miles.

I left Santa Barbara mid-morning and took the 101 to Morrow Bay and then hopped on Route 1. It was a beautiful drive, with green mountains giving way to the blue ocean, white clouds hanging over the ocean to the west, dark fog hovering around the top of the mountains to the east. It stayed like that for most of the day. I had to pull over and take it all in (photo below).

It was like this for most of the day. Clouds on one side, bright sunshine on the other.

Read up on it if you aren’t familiar with the story of Hearst Castle. Honestly, I think Mr. Hearst and I would have gotten along just fine. He built quite a place up there on the hill. What impressed me most was the size of the fireplaces. You could stand in just about all of them. The joke was, “You don’t burn logs, you burn trees.”

I wasn’t a huge fan of the actual tour (I did the Experience Tour, $24, one of many tours they offer). It was a very large group, about 60 people – which was way too much. The guide was fast-paced and would not wait. I seemed to have to choose: lag behind and really look at things or breeze through in an effort to hear his spiel and learn a few things. Others I’ve brought this up to since say they didn’t have a similar experience, so I hope mine was unique and a result of the weather, or something. I would definitely go back – a bad tour of this place is better than no tour. The self-guided garden tour may be up my alley this summer, as its only offered June 14th through September 1st on “most” Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons.

Here’ s a video that shows the crazy weather pattern from the patio of Hearst Castle:

Roman Pool at Hearst Castle

There’s no one picture I can show you that will capture the place, it’s all about the feeling the property gives off (totally old school, by the way, brandy by the fire style), and plus I’m not that good of a photographer. Although the weather didn’t make a swim sound too pleasant, the indoor pool was supposedly where all the late night antics went on back in the day. The bus ride down from the castle (about 5 miles) provided final glimpses of the great palace and breathtaking views of the sun-lit ocean. As a last treat before I turned left onto Route 46 East towards San Luis Obispo, I saw zebras in the pastures off of Route 1, mingling and grazing with the cattle, the remains of the zoo once kept by William Hearst.

The drive to San Luis Obispo was where I saw the sun again. I had the windows down and the music on – sunglasses, of course – and I saw the light coming off the ocean and the blue sky, the clouds absolutely majestic. Then once I turned off the 1 to the 46 and headed into Paso Robles wine country the gray clouds dropped some rain on me, marking the most bizarre weather day of my life.

Awfully nice scenery off of Route 1 in San Simeon.

I met some friends and we had lunch in Paso Robles at Berry Hill Bistro along the city park square. I had a grilled-pear salad with goat cheese. I enjoyed it, very light but still a lot of flavor. The wine list was short and not exactly impressive in its range, although I did savor my glass of local zinfandel. One never enough, we zipped over to taste at Summerwood – it was the only winery we could find that was open until 6 p.m. The Sentio blends were very tasty, albeit pricey ($55). All the red wines were interesting though, definitely worth a stop if you are in the area.

One of the many inspiring views from the grounds of Hearst Castle.

San Luis Obispo’s nightlife is worth checking out if you feel so inclined to stay the night. It’s a young town, so beware of college students, but the streets were busy and the bars alive. There are plenty of places to choose from if you take a stroll through downtown. That night, I made it easy on the bartender at Black Sheep Bar and Grill and drank vodka on the rocks with a couple green olives.

It was my first real experimentation with Kettle One.

I like it, but it’s no Grey Goose.

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